The liberal international order is in bad shape these days, as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte threatens to withdraw from the International Criminal Court the very day after Russia did so. Reuters:
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday said he might follow Russia and withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC), citing criticism from Western nations for a rash of killings unleashed by his war on drugs.
Duterte described the ICC as “useless” and expressed frustration about the West’s allegations of extrajudicial killings and its failure to understand his crackdown on narcotics. He also appeared to blame the United Nations for failing to prevent wars all over the world. […]
“They are useless, those in the international criminal (court). They (Russia) withdrew. I might follow. Why? Only the small ones like us are battered,” Duterte said before his departure for Lima to attend an Asia-Pacific summit.
Duterte has rightly been criticized for his reckless outbursts, but in this case he has hit upon a kernel of truth. The ICC is a prime example of an ineffectual institution whose supposed mandate is incommensurate with its enforceable authority. Russia’s withdrawal came after the ICC criticized Russia’s role in Ukraine, which only confirms that major powers consider themselves off-limits to the ICC’s jurisdiction. Duterte’s comments, meanwhile, reflect the growing disdain felt by many smaller countries to such international “rules-based” institutions.
Illiberal countries around the world increasingly treat the West’s heavy-handed moralism with contempt, especially when such judgments come from weak institutions like the ICC. The U.S. can and should take human rights into account when crafting its foreign policy, but it should not pin its hopes on international institutions that lack the means to enforce the values they espouse. As the idea of an international liberal order loses credibility, countries like the Philippines may look toward alternative systems led by Russia and China, which offer no such pretenses about safeguarding human rights.